The Next Generation of Conservation at Work

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Published on: Sep. 2, 2006

Last revision: Nov. 29, 2010

Ever since voters first established the Conservation Department by voting for a constitutional amendment in 1936, generations of Missourians have pulled together to protect our state’s fish, forests and wildlife.

A new strategic plan, The Next Generation of Conservation, leads the Conservation Department’s staff and resources into the future. Like the strategic plans that preceded it, The Next Generation outlines how the Conservation Department will fulfill its constitutional mandate to serve Missourians by protecting the state’s fish, forest and wildlife resources.

The new strategic plan gives our generation of conservationists a path to success. Through partnerships, sound scientific data, respect for public opinion and a dedication to public service, we can fulfill our obligation to protect and manage our natural resources for the benefit of future generations.

Looking Ahead

The Next Generation of Conservation starts with a vision of the future. Not content with the status quo or to rest on its many achievements, the Conservation Department created a plan that paints a picture of how Missouri’s plants, wildlife and people could be better served.

Naturally, we have to start with healthy, sustainable plant and animal communities throughout the state. The Conservation Department has been protecting our fish, forest and wildlife resources since it was established, but this plan envisions improving those resources so that they are in “appreciably better condition tomorrow than they are today.”

Improvement will come from working closely with our most important partner, the people of Missouri. We might have a hard time persuading every person in the state to plant a tree or pick up trash along a river, but we can gain people’s support for conservation action.

It’s enough if Missourians recognize that conservation is one of the state’s best investments. People pay a tiny fraction of their taxes for the everyday advantages of beautiful scenery, clean waterways and a wide range of outdoor recreational opportunities. Beyond improving our quality of life, conservation also gives a lift to the state’s economy. In fact, Missourians and travelers from other states spend much more money on outdoor recreation than we spend for conservation of those resources that make outdoor recreation possible. Conservation pays for itself.

The vision would not be complete without underscoring the value of partnerships. Call partnerships the power of many. Working together, people, organizations, local governments and agencies can create a Missouri that our children and their children can love and enjoy. They will thank us for planning ahead on their behalf.

Our Goals For the Next Generation

  • Conserving Plants, Animals and Their Habitats
  • Protecting Clean and Healthy Waters
  • Promoting Healthy Trees and Forests
  • Preserving Missouri’s Outdoor Recreation Heritage
  • Teaching Missourians About Fish, Forest and Wildlife Resources
  • Supporting Conservation in our Communities
  • Helping Private Landowners Advance Conservation
  • Serving Nature and You on Conservation Areas
  • Accounting for Department Operations

In The Next Generation of Conservation, the nine goals are accompanied by discussions of the challenges that face us and the results we want to achieve. Each is then followed by a list of specific work we will do to achieve that goal. However, it is not an exhaustive list of all that the Department will do to achieve that goal.

The lists are included within the plan, which has been reprinted in this issue. While the goals are general, the work listed is more specific. For example, under the goal of Conserving Plants, Animals and Their Habitats, the list includes:“Establish or expand 40 Natural Areas to enhance Missouri’s Natural Areas System and to protect the best examples of Missouri’s ecological subsections.”

Under the goal of Supporting Conservation in Our Communities, the “What we will do” list includes: “Develop a virtual ‘conservation neighborhood’ model and on-the-ground examples that demonstrate conservation-friendly construction methods and the economic value of amenities like neighborhood greenspace, trails, forest buffers, wildlife habitat corridors, stream corridor protection and wildlife viewing opportunities.”

Many of the items listed have target dates. For example, under the goal of Teaching Missourians About Fish, Forest and Widlife Resources, we plan to: “Create a new, school-based Learning Outdoors program by 2008 that features wildlife, ecology and aquatic units designed to meet testing standards while providing exciting, hands-on learning experiences for Missouri students.”

The Next Generation of Conservation will guide Conservation Department employees, programs, activities and philosophy for years to come. Already, Department budgets and positions are being changed to meet the requirements of the plan. In a short time, you’ll even see changes to the Conservation Department’s Web site and to the Conservationist magazine that will focus our activities toward the strategic plan’s goals and allow the public to monitor our efforts and, ultimately, our success in fulfilling the plan.

The Next Generation of Conservation is essential if we are to fulfill our responsibility of passing on a better world to those who come after us.

The Next Generation of Conservation at Work:

  • Generational Hunting
  • Working Together for a Watershed
  • The School and the Cavesnail
  • Help for a Neighbor

The Commission’s Mission

The Conservation Commission of Missouri, which the state’s citizens voted into existence in 1936 when they approved Constitutional Amendment No. 4, oversees the operations of the Missouri Department of Conservation. The four-member Commission operates under directives outlined in the Constitution of Missouri. These directives are:

  • Members are appointed by the governor, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. No more than two of the four shall be from the same political party.
  • Members of the Conservation Commission need to have knowledge of and interest in wildlife conservation.
  • Each commissioner serves a term of six years, beginning on the first day of July of consecutive odd years.

Conservation Commissioners shall receive no salary or other compensation, but they shall receive reimbursement for travel and other expenses.

Duties of the commission include serving as the Department’s policy makers, approving Missouri Wildlife Code Regulations, appointing the Department’s director, developing budgets, making major expenditure decisions and helping to develop and approve strategic plans.

Commissioners were engaged in the entire 18-month development process of The Next Generation of Conservation strategic plan, which concluded with their final approval of the plan in the April 2006 Commission meeting. Current members of the Commission are Stephen C. Bradford of Cape Girardeau, William F. “Chip” McGeehan of Marshfield, Cynthia Metcalfe of St. Louis and Lowell Mohler of Jefferson City. All four agree that The Next Generation of Conservation is a sound strategic plan that incorporates both professional expertise and public opinion.

“It’s a strategic plan that lays out very clearly a road map for the future of conservation priorities that this Department has established and this Commission has approved,” Mohler said. “It gives a lot of support to partnerships and the importance of us [the Department of Conservation] teaming up with many others to make this plan work.”

“The important thing about The Next Generation plan is the recognition it gives to the wonderful natural diversity of our state, as well as to the diversity of interests and the importance of nature to our citizens,” Metcalfe said.

“In the 1970s, we came out with Design for Conservation,” McGeehan said. “The Next Generation is a great road map to continue the quality of life for the residents of Missouri in regard to their enjoyment of our fish, forest and wildlife.”

“I think the citizens of Missouri can take comfort in the fact that the Department of Conservation staff will, indeed, implement this program just as they did the Design for Conservation,” Bradford said.—Francis Skalicky

A Bold Initiative

The Next Generation of Conservation builds on past plans and adds unique concepts that reflect the philosophy and priorities of the current Conservation Commission and John Hoskins, the current Conservation Department director.

In his first address to the Conservation Department staff after being named director in 2002, Hoskins encouraged Department employees to provide exemplary public service.

“There’s no room for arrogance,” he said at the conclusion of his speech. “We must actively listen to our constituents, respect their views and act in the best interest of Missourians. This is the highest way we can honor our state’s citizens.”

Hoskins also believes in the value of conservation partners, whether they be landowners, government entities, organizations or simply conservation-minded people. Partnerships pool energy, impetus and resources to make conservation happen more efficiently.

Study the Plan

Download a digital copy of The Next Generation of Conservation or request extra copies from The Next Generation of Conservation, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102 or e-mail pubstaff@mdc.mo.gov.

Generational Hunting

“We want everybody with all points of view involved.”

James West Sr. started hunting when he was 10 or 11. When his son, James West Jr., reached that age, it seemed like a good idea for him to go hunting, too.

The Wests, who live in Hayti, which is near Caruthersville in Pemiscot County, have been hunting together for nearly 30 years. They mostly pursue rabbits and some quail, but during the 12-day pheasant season in the Southeast Zone, the two Jameses follow a Brittany spaniel named Simon across public hunting land. The elder James said Simon has a good nose for the big birds.

James Sr. said he moved to Missouri from Arkansas in 1951. He said even though rabbits are scarcer than they were back then, he and his son still have a good time pursuing them.

The younger James became so enthused about hunting that he joined a multi-state hunting club and has traveled to Iowa and Nebraska several times to hunt pheasants.

When they first started, they were more like teacher and student, with the senior James imparting to his son hunting lore he’d learned on earlier hunts.

James Jr. said he and his dad are now more like buddies hunting together. “We don’t talk like father and son,” he said. “When we’re out hunting, we just talk about life in general.”

James Sr. said he was happy his son took so well to hunting. “It kept him out of trouble,” he said

Meeting Next Generation Goals

The Conservation Department is committed to providing opportunities for Missourians like the West family to continue to enjoy outdoor activities. If our outdoor recreation heritage is to continue, families like the Wests will have to continue to pass down their hunting traditions to future generations. Hunting, trapping and fishing provide an essential service in controlling some populations of fish and wildlife as well as contributing to the state economy. Conservation lands also play a role in maintaining our outdoor recreation heritage by providing easy access and comfortable facilities so that people can enjoy them with friends or family.

  • Preserving missouri’s Outdoor recreation Heritage
  • Serving Nature and you on Conservation Areas

Working Together for a Watershed

“We want everybody with all points of view involved.”

LaBarque Creek in Jefferson County drains water from a 13-square-mile watershed into the Meramec River.

It does so delightfully. Twisting, turning, tumbling and gurgling, it slides through steep rock canyons and falls over imposing cliffs. Moist, cool nooks and crannies in the sandstone rock near the stream serve as refuges for blueberries, club mosses and the intensely pink fame flower.

“To people tuned into the aesthetics of a landscape, LaBarque is just eye-candy,” said Mike Arduser, a natural history biologist for the Conservation Department’s St. Louis Region. “The acidic soils from the sandstone make for a different suite of plants than you’ll find elsewhere in Missouri. Most people can’t help but be drawn to that kind of beauty.”

LaBarque Creek is remarkably healthy, especially for a stream so close to St. Louis. Fisheries biologists count 42 different species of fish in the 6-mile-long stream. Other nearby Meramec tributaries average just 10 species. In the 1960s, Stewart Udall, then secretary of the interior, considered the area for a national park.

The watershed has remained pristine in the face of Jefferson County’s rapid growth because the steep topography of the landscape has fended off development, and because local landowners love the area too much to risk spoiling it.

That’s why residents of the watershed came out in droves to the LaBarque Creek Festival held in April 2005. Of the 1,300 people who live in the watershed, more than 300 attended the event. They learned more about the history and biology of the area and discussed ways they could protect the unique resource they called home.

“That was really the kickoff to the watershed planning process,” said Tracy Boaz, the community conservationist working out of the Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center. “We couldn’t have a plan without the enthusiasm and interest of landowners.”

Most of the landowners involved in the planning process are primarily interested in protecting the natural qualities of the LaBarque Creek watershed without causing economic hardship.

Ray Oberkramer, who owns 300 acres in the watershed and hosted one of the first planning meetings at his home, grew up in the area. He recalled how 60 years ago he would catch crayfish and bluegill from LaBarque Creek. He said it was important for people to get the value from their land, but, he added, “I’d hate to see someone come in and scrape the tops off the mountains and fill the valleys and take the sides of the hills and call them common ground.”

He said as they learn more about the natural values of the watershed, landowners are eager to have a say in the planning process. Membership in the LaBarque Creek Stream Team, which his wife, Sunny, started, is also rising.

“More and more people are getting involved,” Oberkramer said, “and that’s all good.”

The creation of a plan for LaBarque Creek watershed coincides with a county master plan revision. Boaz said the Jefferson County government is willing to work with the landowners and the Conservation Department to balance natural resource and development issues.

“It isn’t a question of whether the area is going to develop,” said Martin Toma, director of land use, development and code enforcement for Jefferson County. “We just hope to produce something that will provide guidance for landowners and government so we can achieve our mutual goals of preserving the value of the resource.”

Joining in the planning are a couple handfuls of conservation partners, including the Missouri Chapter of The Nature Conservancy; the Ozark Regional Land Trust; the Trust for Public Land; the Open Space Council; the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation; the East-West Gateway Council of Governments; the St. Louis District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; the LaBarque Creek Watershed Partners; the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Technical and general committees meet regularly to hammer out details of the plan, which will include terrestrial and aquatic inventories, Geographic Information Systems data and surveys of residents and other stakeholders.

“We are trying to involve all the people,” Boaz said. “We want everybody with all points of view involved. That’s the only way to develop a plan that’s actually going to work.”

Meeting Next Generation Goals

Developing the LaBarque Creek Watershed Plan illustrates how a single project can meet several Next Generation of Conservation goals. Conservation Department personnel are helping landowners advance conservation and are involving the community, including government, in conservation. When complete, the watershed plan will conserve plants, animals and their habitats and protect the clean and healthy waters of LaBarque Creek.

  • Conserving Plants, Animals and Their Habitats
  • Protecting Clean and Healthy Waters
  • Supporting Conservation in Our Communities
  • Helping Private Landowners Advance Conservation

The School and the Cavesnail

“This is a story I never get tired of telling.”

This is a story of helping. It’s about how a school helped a snail, and how agencies, local government and individuals came together to help the school help the snail, and how none of this help could have occurred if the snail wasn’t there to help the school in the first place.

The story began in 2004, when Mark Twain Elementary School in Protem discovered that, despite repairs, their aging water treatment lagoon continued to leak raw sewage into the ground.

A new sewage control system would cost Mark Twain Elementary $90,000, a big bite out of the money the 76-student school would normally spend for books, busses and teachers’ salaries.

Compounding the problem was that polluted water from the lagoon was filtering into the recharge area of the Tumbling Creek Cave, a designated national landmark for its biological diversity. Tumbling Creek Cave has more species than any other cave west of the Mississippi River.

Among these species is the story’s hero: the Tumbling Creek cavesnail.

In all the world this species lives only in this one cave, and its numbers have dropped so much in the past 30 years that the species is federally and state endangered. Threats to the cavesnail made the school’s water pollution problem an immediate conservation concern.

Richard Needham, the school’s superintendent, said the situation went from “unnerving” to a happy circumstance, in which three tiers of government—local, state and federal—along with private individuals were working together.

“It was a classic case of cooperation,” he said. “All had an interest in the environment. We wanted to save this cavesnail and keep the school operating.”

Funding was the biggest problem. Because of the threat to the cavesnail, the Conservation Department was able to secure a $20,000 federal Wildlife Diversity Fund grant for the water treatment project.

“That gave the fund-raising effort respectability,” said Tom Aley, owner of the Ozark Underground Laboratory, a research and educational facility in Taney County, which includes Tumbling Creek Cave. “It’s like a jar of pickles. The hardest one to get out is the first one.”

In all, eight different funding sources, including Aley and the Taney County Commission, helped pay for the new water treatment system, which was completed in March. In addition, the U.S. Forest Service deeded to the school the 14 acres on which the old lagoon was located.

“It couldn’t have been better,” Needham said. “For essentially no cost to the school, we ended up with a first-class water treatment system that will last 50 years.”

He said the old lagoon has already been filled, and the area will become a nature reserve and include a butterfly sanctuary. Future plans include a nature trail and an outdoor pavilion that students from Mark Twain Elementary and other schools can use to learn about nature and water quality issues.

“Toward the end, I felt like I was being looked over by a herd of guardian angels,” Needham said, “and it just continues.” He said he is in constant contact with Conservation Department employees Larry Martien and Jay Barber about ways to improve the area by planting native grasses and creating conservation education opportunities.

The Conservation Department has a keen interest in the project because the area is within the Tumbling Creek Cave Ecosystem, one of 33 areas in Missouri that the Conservation Department and conservation partners have identified as Conservation Opportunity Areas. These places provide excellent opportunities to conserve a broad array of plants and animals through focused management and conservation of existing natural systems.

“The Department of Conservation was there at the beginning, and they’re still there,” Needham said. “This is a story I never get tired of telling.”

Meeting Next Generation Goals

The Conservation Department’s participation in building a sewage treatment facility at Mark Twain Elementary School guaranteed a viable habitat for an endangered species. At the same time, it brought a variety of partners together to advance the cause of conservation. The combined efforts to conserve plants, animals and their habitat also will result in a nature study area where Missourians can learn more about our fish, forest and wildlife resources.

  • Conserving Plants, Animals and Their Habitats
  • Protecting Clean and Healthy Waters
  • Teaching Missourians About Fish, Forest and Wildlife resources
  • Supporting Conservation in Our Communities
  • Helping Private Landowners Advance Conservation

Help for a Neighbor

“They just looked for volunteers and provided incentives.”

Good fences make good neighbors, but when your neighbor is a little minnow on the verge of extinction, a stream easement is much better than a fence. That’s the thinking behind the cooperative agreement the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation recently reached with Ryan Klindt of Harrison County.

The agreement protects crucial habitat for the Topeka shiner, a federally endangered species that hangs on in only a few Missouri streams. Klindt’s property borders a stretch of Sugar Creek where Conservation Department fisheries biologists often find the endangered fish.

“I’ve seen them, too,” Klindt said, “but I never paid much attention to them.”

Klindt owns 208 acres on which he grows corn and soybeans and raises about 200 head of registered Red Angus cattle. In return for a payment that came from the Stream Stewardship Trust Fund, he’s agreed not to farm or to allow cattle in a strip of land that ranges from 60 to 180 feet from the creek and a few of its spring-fed tributaries.

Klindt said he can still hunt the property or lease it for hunting, and he can log it with Conservation Department approval. “It really didn’t take anything productive away,” Klindt said.

Klindt works full time on his property and 2,000 other acres he rents. “I had to look at the agreement from the farmer’s side,” he said. “I lost about 4 acres of crop ground, but I’ve got a lot of walnuts planted so if anything it may actually increase the value.”

Klindt said he appreciated the way the Conservation Department handled the agreement. “They didn’t come in and try to enforce anything,” he said. “They just looked for volunteers and provided incentives.”

Klindt said several neighboring farms, including the family farm he grew up on, have entered into similar agreements. He estimated that his family’s two farms alone protect about a mile of Sugar Creek.

Meeting Next Generation Goals

The Conservation Department looks for opportunities to help private landowners work for the benefit of conservation. This is so important in Missouri because more than 90 percent of the state is privately owned. Although the Department manages conservation areas for the benefit of natural resources, the only way to ensure that Missouri has abundant wildlife, clean water and healthy forests is to encourage and help private landowners incorporate good conservation practices into their land management.

  • Helping Private Landowners Advance Conservation
  • Conserving Plants, Animals and Their Habitats
  • Protecting Clean and Healthy Waters
  • Promoting Healthy Trees and Forests

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